4 From Trenches to Bridges
6 AFS hinterlässt Spuren
9 De l’Afrique du Sud à la Suisse: le projet Lungelo
11 Einfach einmal über die Grenzen gehen
13 Die Schweiz entdecken
14 Tausche Werkbank gegen Schulbank
16 Tempi Passati
18 AFS Volunteer Award
20 A Glimpse into the AFS Network
22 AFS: Mitglied bei BENEVOL
23 General Assembly 2016
24 Membership & Donation
27 Calender – Upcoming Events
Building bridges is a sustainable way of linking
two separate parties; it is basically what we
do with our exchange programs.
When we send young people on an ex-
change, it may seem as a one-sided trip. But
our exchange students aren’t tourists who go
sightseeing and return with a few souvenirs.
Our bridges aren’t one-way roads: We build
bridges reaching out both ways, allowing both
parties to go back and forth, becoming stron-
ger with each crossing. Well-built bridges can
go back to Roman times, over 2000 years old:
what a great achievement!
Bridges come in various sizes and forms. Some are simple, short and
direct; a plank across a brook. Some reach boldly out across two conti-
nents; some are delicate, made of knotted ropes, hazardous to cross...
there are all kinds, but they have one thing in common: They link two
sides, they make contact, they offer the possibility of communication,
they are a go-between.
The initial crossing is only the start: The exchange experience is inten-
ded to imprint itself on the youths forever; the intercultural learning
isn’t finished when they return home; it is rather a starting point for
continuous intercultural communication. The bridge can, but doesn’t
have to be crossed bodily again; relationships are built spiritually. The
formed relationship between student and host family grows and chan-
ges and lasts, sometimes outlasting generations: These bridges are built
on love and understanding and become more beautiful in time. But the
impact of the initial bridge goes way beyond: Everyone reached by the
connection can multiply and extend their experience to other domains.
Thus, new bridges are built; some start as tentative, fragile ones; some
are based on compassion or curiosity. But the more we dare cross the
bridges, the more understanding and tolerant towards the other side
– and our own! – we become: to other family forms, different social,
economic and political systems, to new ways of thinking and doing busi-
ness, to various life-styles. By building bridges to unknown places we
can set an example for others who will follow us.
Read in this ACROSS about the many kinds of bridges that AFSers have
been building, starting with our founders and continuing onwards.
Chair of AFS Switzerland
“Understanding languages and other cultures
builds bridges. It is the fastest way to bring the world
closer together and to truth. Through understanding, people
will be able to see their similarities before differences.”
Suzy Kassem, Rise Up and Salute the Sun: The Writings of Suzy Kassem
30 exchange students had the chance to attend a memorial ceremony
dedicated to Richard Hall, the first AFS volunteer to die in WWI. In
attendance of his surviving family, a special plaque was unveiled at the
cemetery of Moosch, where he is buried.
After this rather depressing day, all the participants were invited to the
Château de Pourtalès, where a grand party was held for them. There it
showed that the group could not only be serious and thoughtful, but
also fun loving and outgoing.
Of course, remembering is a good thing, but it doesn’t help much if
you don’t think about what you could learn from whatever happened
in the past. Therefore, Wednesday was the day the students started to
reflect about what impact they could have in their direct environment.
One of the most memorable parts of the whole week was a speech
by Shabana Basij-Rasikh, a young Afghan woman who founded a girl’s
boarding school in Kabul after her exchange year in the United States.
Her example shows that you don’t need much experience or money to
really make a difference in your community but rather passion, commit-
ment and courage.
Shabana not only encouraged the participants to think about what
they could do themselves, but it also was the starting point for them to
create a peace charter. Even though they only had very limited time to
phrase their ideas, the final document was impressive. Consequently,
the pride of the participants was almost tangible when they handed the
charter over to delegates of the Council of Europe the following day –
in written form and as a video.
Thursday was already the last full day of the event before the students
returned to their respective host families in France, Germany or Swit-
zerland. After having spent a few hours in Europa-Park the grand finale
was the dinner at the Colosseo hotel with good food, a lot of music
and thus opportunity to dance, and a short review video about the past
week. This emotional and visual highlight of the week only made it har-
der for everyone to say goodbye.
As mentioned before, this week certainly is one that the participants
will not forget easily. They not only made new friends from all over the
world and gained an additional host family in Strasbourg, but most im-
portant the week encouraged them to think about how they could build
bridges in their communities. Many students went home, their minds
full of ideas and their hearts filled with enthusiasm and passion.
For the students, their very special week during their exchange year be-
gan on Saturday October 31, when they all arrived in Strasbourg. After
having been greeted by AFS volunteers from all over Europe, their Al-
satian short-term host families picked them up right after. Just imagine
– 150 host families all living in and around one city! Despite some train
delays, finally all students were settled with their respective families and
could enjoy their first sample of genuine French cuisine.
The actual program started on Sunday afternoon with a symbolic walk
across the Bridge of Kehl from France into Germany. On the German
side of the river, the students and their host families were greeted by
representatives of AFS France and Germany and of the German Minis-
try of Education in the Villa Schmidt before everyone got back to the
French side of the river for dinner. In spite of the party going on until
late at night, all students were ready again the next morning for a visit
to the Council of Europe. Apart from the impressive building, they were
also awaited by George King III in a historic AFS uniform and an original
AFS ambulance which could even drive a few meters! Of course, the
student’s interest was aroused and they were all eager to learn more
about AFS’ history as well as about WWI in general.
After having spent a day at the Council of Europe on Monday and lear-
ning a lot about AFS and WWI, the students had the chance to get a
feeling of what the war 100 years ago could have felt like. A tour guide
took them through the battlefield at Hartmannswillerkopf. Even though
the weather was stunning, the atmosphere of the war could still be
felt while walking through the trenches where so many soldiers died
a century ago. After a short lunch break, a small delegation of about
From Trenches to Bridges
The first week of November 2015 is certainly one that will leave a permanent imprint in the minds of many of our
current host students in Switzerland. Together with 160 other exchange students hosted in Germany or France
at the time, they had the unique opportunity not only to discover the beautiful region of Alsace but also to learn
about the roots of AFS and reflect about how they can have an impact in todays world. After all, the very first AFS
volunteers were not much older than our current host students are. Fittingly, the whole event was named „From
Trenches to Bridges“ and the participants not only reflected on WWI but also looked at the possibilities each of
them has to create bridges in his or her personal environment.
Shabana Basij-Rasikh was born and raised in Kabul. The first years of her
childhood were overshadowed by the Taliban regime. This meant that,
together with thousands of other young girls, Shabana wasn’t allowed
to attend school. However, unlike many others, Shabana’s parents de-
cided they wanted to provide an education for their daughters despite
everything and sent her to secret school. Hearing Shabana talk about the
experience of not being able to go to school openly, to know that by still
doing so she put her own, her family’s and her teacher’s lives at risk, gi-
ves you a feeling of what life was like under the Taliban. Many times, she
begged her parents to just let her stay at home. She was tired of having to
choose a different route to her school everyday, tired of having to disguise
her schoolbooks as grocery, tired of always relying on one of her male
relatives to look out for her safety.
After the defeat of the Taliban, Shabana for the first time was able to at-
tend school openly. Suddenly she found herself in classes with much older
girls. This was when she realized how privileged she had been to attend
school from early on. These other girls had missed out on so much! Many
of them never learnt to read or write before getting married and conse-
quently dropping out of school. Shabana however excelled at